• April 28, 2010

Defendant/employer LSI Corporation is alleged to have terminated one employee because LSI had terminated her husband — the alleged rationale being that one assumes the “surviving spouse” might harbor some ill feeling at the fate of her terminated husband.  (Also LSI is alleged to have reasoned that the husband would probably have to relocate so the wife would presumably be on the move as well.)

Because an employer’s decision regarding termination is rational does not make it legal.  Would such a decision by LSI (and the alleged rationale for it), if the allegations were true, violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act?  That is, would this constitute “discrimination” based on “marital status”?

Yes.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals (Minge, Schelhas, Bjorkman), in an opinion by Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman, reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer, LSI (by Hennepin County Judge Stephen C. Aldrich, who has something of a publicized history on the subject of matrimony), holding that:
[T]he district court erred in dismissing appellant‘s claim on the ground that it did not represent a direct attack on the institution of marriage. By its clear terms, Minn. Stat. § 363A.03, subd. 24, prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee based on the identity or situation of the employee‘s spouse. The crux of appellant’s claim is that LSI terminated her based on the identity and situation of her spouse, a co-employee whose forced resignation was occurring at the same time. This claim falls squarely within the statutory definition of ―marital status.

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